Posted on March 23, 2010 at 3:11 PMLast year before the season began, I posed five questions to a
blogger for each team, so as to get to know the rest of baseball. I
focus so heavily on the Cardinals that sometimes the rest of MLB can
pass me by. That went very well, so much so that it spawned not only a
postseason edition but was part of the impetus for the formation of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.
Filed Under: Playing Pepper
| Toronto Blue Jays
So this year, I've brought Playing Pepper back,
with a little bit of a twist. Instead of five questions, I posed 10
questions, and this year every team got the same set. Plus, tapping
into those BBA connections, I sent them to every blogger representing
that team in the BBA.
We'll try to do two a day in a general alphabetical order---ah, who are we kidding, we'll get them up when we get them up.
Toronto Blue Jays
2009 Finish: 75-87, fourth in AL East
It had to be extremely tough this offseason for Jays fans to see Toronto icon Roy Halladay get shipped on.
Sure, they knew it was coming sometime, and they'd had the dry run for the whole thing around the trading deadline last year, but that couldn't have made it any easier.
The BBA is stocked with great Blue Jay bloggers, so I was able to round up Dick from 1 Blue Jays Way
, Ian from The Blue Jay Hunter
, Chris from Infield Fly
and Mat from Jays Journal
to take a look at the season to come via the Playing Pepper Ten.
Scroll Down to Continue Reading
C70: How was the offseason? What kind of grade would you give it?
1BJW: B minus
traded away our best pitcher, the face of the
franchise, for three young players that may help us in the coming
We received no major league ready talent in return.
understand that team management was put in a difficult position and we
had to trade clubhouse leader Roy Halladay. I also understand we did
received great prospects in return for him which has helped restock our
substandard minor league system.
ace of your staff creates a HUGE hole at the top of the rotation in
terms of quality innings pitched, the ability to stop a losing streak
and the rest the bullpen receives every five days. The
remainder of the off-season acquisitions were stop gap measures meant to
fill holes, except the trade for Brandon Morrow.
We acquired Cuban born shortstop Adeiny Hechevarria. He fills a long
standing organizational need at shortstop and immediately becomes a top
five prospect for the team at a premium position. Along with Brett
Wallace at one of the corner infield spots and Kyle Drabek on the
mound, things look a little brighter in the days ahead. All three of
these off-season pickups should see some time in the show this year.
Travis d'Arnaud is still a few years away before he will be in a position to help us out at bat catcher.
BJH: There was a maelstrom of off-season activity for the Blue Jays,
obviously spear-headed by the Roy Halladay trade. We all knew it was
going to happen, we just didn't know where (Philly) and when
(December). After the Doc deal, other pieces of the puzzle started to
fall into place, like the Alex Gonzalez signing, the John Buck signing,
and the Kevin Gregg signing. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos was very
busy this off-season and overall I would give the team a B- grade in
their off-season transactions. The moves certainly weren't ones that
will make the Blue Jays a contender in 210, but they were moves that
are building this team for the future.
IF: Rookie GM Alex Anthopoulos showed he's got potential to be good at his
job by pulling off a good deal for Roy Halladay, pouring resources into
the scouting department and bringing in lots of arms and some nice role
players who can help speed the development of the younger players. But
for a team that's supposedly undergoing a youth movement, priority No.
1 should have been to bring in a manager who can develop the youngsters
and who will let them play. Clarence Gaston is not the manager to do
that, so the team gets an overall grade of D.
and busy to say the least. Any time you change GMs, add 25 scouts to
the franchise and change its structure, trade a beloved franchise
player, add 2 top 50 prospects (Drabek and Wallace), add a quality arm
(Morrow), and add another 15-20 depth guys to compete for spots you
know it's been a busy off season. I definitely grade the off season as
an A since it could not have gone any better.C70: What is the key to success for 2010?
1BJW: I'm not certain what our goals actually are for the upcoming
season. As such, it is difficult to answer this question.
building/re-building/re-tooling/whatever you want to call it (again) and it is no secret we are not stepping onto the
field everyday thinking we can win.
I think the key for the Blue Jays lies in the hands (and arms) of the
starting rotation. There are a lot of questions surrounding the
starting five, and with the departure of Roy Halladay, somebody is
going to have to step in and become the new ace of the club.
Fortunately, there are a lot of young starting pitchers with a lot of
upside that could surprise a lot of folks in 2010. Also, with the
return of Shaun Marcum and possibly even Dustin McGowan, those guys can
provide some experience and depth to the starting rotation.
IF: The pitching should still be strong enough to give the team a chance to
win, so the key is Vernon Wells. If he can return to the level of
offensive production that he's capable of, scoring runs will be a lot
easier for this team.
JJ: Over achievements from 3-4 of their young pitchers and a good return in trades of some RP and 1B Lyle Overbay.
C70: What will be the team's strength?
1BJW: Team defense.
2009 we tied the Pirates for the best fielding percentage in the Majors
at .988. I expect a small drop off due to the loss of Alex Rios in
right field, Marco Scutaro at shortstop and especially Scott Rolen at
third base. But we should continue to be in the top half of the league.
Again, similar to the previous question - I think the Blue Jays
strength in 2010 will be pitching. Top to bottom, they have a core of
young, talented starting and relief pitchers that are only maybe one or
two years away from really hitting their stride.
IF: Even without Halladay, the team's strength should still be pitching.
The rotation is young but talented and the bullpen is pretty deep.
JJ: The core of Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, and Travis Snider, along with the overall talent of their starters.C70: What could be their Achilles' heel?
1BJW: Field manager Cito Gaston and his "old school"
needs to manage a team full of veterans that police themselves in order
to be successful, which is the exact opposite of what he has now. He
is in the final year of his contract to manage the team so it will be
interesting to see what type of legacy he wishes to go out of baseball with.
Surprise, surprise! Once again, starting pitching will be something
that could make or break the Blue Jays in 2010. With a starting
rotation that is heavy on sophomore and rookies, there will undoubtedly
be a lot of growing pains this year. But its best for those pitchers to
gain the experience know and use it as a learning tool for the future.
IF: The Manager. If the team struggles, he's very unlikely to make the necessary changes to the lineup and/or rotation.
JJ: Youth and inexperience.C70: Who will be the team's MVP?
1BJW: Adam Lind.
BJH: I'm going to go out on a huge limb here and say that Vernon Wells will
be the MVP for the Blue Jays in 2010. Expectations for him are so low,
that anything above what he produced last year will be a vast
improvement. We've all seen his potential to be be 30 HR/100 RBI
hitter, and if healthy, he has the potential to reach that status once
again ... but that's a very big "if".
IF: Adam Lind. His offensive future seems blindingly bright. Aaron Hill
should be good again, but his power numbers will likely drop off and
the people who vote on these things won't like that.
JJ: 2B Aaron Hill.
C70: Will a rookie make a significant impact on the team in 2010 and, if so, who?
1BJW: Determining rookie status:
A player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season
or seasons, he has (a) exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in
the Major Leagues; or (b) accumulated more than 45 days on the active
roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player
limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled
Although we have a lot of young players expected to contribute, none of them still qualify as a rookie.
BJH: It's tough to gauge whether or not a rookie will make big contributions
towards to the pitching staff because many young rookie hurlers stepped
up last season for the Blue Jays. Technically, Ricky Romero is out of
the running because he spent the entire season with the Blue Jays, so
my vote for rookie breakout for 2010 would either have to go to Brett
Cecil or Marc Rzepczynski.
IF: Randy Ruiz is poised to make a huge impact. I really hope someone in
the front office leans on Cito to give him some playing time.
JJ: Yes, 3B Brett Wallace should be able to put up some great numbers when called up mid-summer.C70: Who will be the breakout player for the team?
1BJW: Travis Snider.
I guess if I keep picking him to do it every year, eventually I have to be right!
BJH: For me, the breakout star for 2010 has to be Brandon Morrow. After
being bounced around from the rotation and the bullpen over in the
Seattle Mariners organization, Morrow can now focus all his efforts on
being an effective starting pitcher. With the Toronto Blue Jays, he has
nowhere to go but up.
IF: I have a feeling that Edwin Encarnacion is poised to put up some pretty
impressive performances at the plate. And with infield coach Brian
Butterfield working his defensive magic, Encarnacion might develop into
a well-rounded player. May not be a typical "breakout" player, but he
might surprise some people.
JJ: RF Travis Snider.C70: Which player will drop off the most from 2009?
1BJW: Aaron Hill.
had a breakout season last year and put up silver slugger numbers
hitting behind productive lead off man Marco Scutaro. He had more at
bats than anyone in baseball last year and he took advantage of that
fact. I think Hill will drop off only because his supporting cast is worse,
but he still remains a top tier major league second baseman.
I don't necessarily think that all his stats will drop off this year,
but we can definitely expect Aaron Hill to come back down to earth a
little bit in 2010. It would be overzealous to expect him to club 30
home runs again this year. I would be surprised if he surpassed 25
HR's, but expect him to land around the 20-22 HR range this year.
IF: After the lousy 2009 season this team had, there's not much room for a
drop off. If I had to pick someone though, I'd say Hill. His home run
total will likely go down, but he should hit quite a few more doubles.
Not a real drop off, but again, it's probably the closest thing to a
drop off that his team will have.
JJ: DH Adam Lind.C70: Who is the most likely player to be dangled as trade bait?
1BJW: I think we will be
sellers this year, all year, not just at the trade deadline.
Overbay, John Buck, Alex Gonzalez, Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor,
Scott Downs are available for a price. I anticipate we will receive a lot
of trade offers as contending teams begin to lose starting players to
injury or nonperformance.
This is a toss-up between Lyle Overbay and Jason Frasor. Both of these
guys could easily be traded at a moment's notice and I would not be
surprised at all to see them go prior to the trade deadline. Other
teams might find Jason Frasor a little more appealing because it seems
like clubs are always in the hunt for stable relievers that could close
if need be. Since the depth chart is so deep at both these positions,
the Blue Jays could easily trade either Overbay or Frasor and have
another player step in and take their place at a moment's notice.
IF: Anybody who pitches out of the bullpen. The pen's deeper in Toronto than in most places.
JJ: RP Jason Frasor because of his value as a proven closing option, followed by 1B Lyle Overbay and RP Scott Downs.
C70: What will be the team's final record and divisional standing?
1BJW: Dead last in the AL East, maybe even the entire AL.
won 75 games last season and that included contributions from Scott
Rolen and Alex Rios for roughly two thirds of the season. We replaced
them with Edwin Encarnasion and Jose Bautista. That win total also
includes a full season of Roy Halladay and Marco Scutaro. We replaced
them with Brandon Morrow and Alex Gonzalez.
hate to be so negative before the season even starts but I think we may
be in danger of flirting with the teams fourth 100 loss season.
Overall, I think the Blue Jays will be on par with their record and
placing from last season. I expect them to finish in fourth place with
somewhere around a 70-92 record.
IF: I'm taking an optimistic approach to 2010, and I'm going to guess the team ends at 80-82 in fourth place (ahead of the Orioles).
JJ: They will finish last in the division with a 77-85 record.
My thanks to all of the guys for taking a little time out to answer some questions. Dick even sent along a picture that he felt encapsulated the whole situation, indicating just how tough it can be in Toronto right now.